My favorite, long-time, pen pal, Whitesburg native but now South Carolinian USAF Captain (ret.), Mike Majority, emailed me in late March to let me know that redbud winter was in full swing along the Little Shepherd Trail in Harlan County. Capt. Mike and daughter Robin were out hiking during one of their frequent visits to relatives in Letcher and Harlan counties during what, I assume was a combo spring break and Easter vacation.
I am assuming that the cold spell we are experiencing this week is dogwood winter because the dogwoods are already struggling to pop out a tad immaturely in Berea and alongside the highway between Paint Lick and Richmond. Two down and at least three (locust,wild cherry and blackberry) to go, but I’m thinking that Dave Maggard Sr., there in Irvine, recognizes at least one other little flowering winter in addition to those.
Still, the truth of the matter is that, except for a couple of short snowy weeks in February, we did not have what I would call winter in 2015-16 here in central Kentucky.
Our forsythia was trying to start blooming in December and actually put out a few blossoms in both January and February before it finally blushed out into full bloom at the first of March. And, despite winds that frequently topped out at nearly 60 mph over the weekend, the forsythia is still holding its own. I have never, ever seen it last more than two weeks but this year it has stayed lush for over a month. And it has been far prettier, with far more blossoms, than it has ever had in the 17 years we’ve lived here.
Our tulips, roughly five dozen, were all fully bloomed out well before the end of March with the first one popping open on March 19. I can tell you, for sure, because I keep records of such things, that we have never had tulips bloomed out on Charlie Brown Road before the first week of April. The first blossom last year, for instance, was on April 6 and that was a new record with the next closest being April 8 in 2012.
One the other hand, our bleeding heart, peony plants and dwarf hydrangea had shown no signs of life before March 26 and I had commenced lamenting that they were victims of our vole invasion. The bleeding heart is normally knee high by the first of April and the peonies and hydrangea are normally well above ground.
Then, last Friday, Loretta was on her hands and knees weeding when she yelled, “They’re all out here!”
“What all out where?” I demanded, ever alert for an April Fools gimmick.
“All the flowers you thought the voles had destroyed,” she announced.
I still suspected she was pulling my leg, but, sure enough, my wife had pulled up enough purple top nettles to reveal all three of the missing buds. Now all we have to worry about is keeping them frost-proofed as these little winters come and go.
And, while that was a relief, one row of tulips, over a dozen, are, in fact, gone as are several oriental lilies and callas that I’m reasonably sure the voles have devoured.
The surviving tulips and lilies are all surrounded by brick or stone borders. We have discovered that voles will not burrow under anything with much weight to it. At least they have failed to do that so far.
In the meantime, Cooney, the cat that some great ape dropped off on us, has slain at least three more voles since I wrote about her hunting skills last week. I’ve had calls and/or emails from all over central and southeastern Kentucky from people wanting to take her off our hands after making last week’s pitch about her prowess.
However, in addition to becoming far more appreciative of Cooney’s vole eradication talents, we have discovered that having her “fixed” is not going to be quite as expensive as we had been previously been led to believe. We have decided that we need to keep her, after all.
Several people have suggested that we jump through all the veterinary hoops and start renting her out to other people with vole or mouse problems but, at least at this writing, I have no plans to engage in such an enterprise. However, Loretta says that if she starts bringing in snakes, Cooney may, yet again, be looking for another home.
Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at [email protected] or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.